Have you ever wondered what the name of your car means or maybe how manufacturers come up with names? After all, we say names like Camry, Miata and Passat without pausing to think if those names have a meaning. Turns out almost every car name has some significance that can be grouped into 12 categories.
Location | 21.9% of names
Manufacturers really, really like naming their cars after places, even if the location has absolutely nothing to do with the brand’s history. Oh well, here are some of the interesting ones.
Toyota Venza: Named by combining the word venture with the city Monza, Italy.
Subaru Tribeca: Named after the bustling New York City neighborhood.
Chevrolet Tahoe: Ever heard of Lake Tahoe? Of course.
Adventure | 19.53% of names
Having a sense of freedom, ruggedness and adventure was critical to the appeal and marketing of SUV’s in the 1990’s and it continues with today’s crossovers. These names help drivers imagine forging rivers, tackling sand dunes and scaling the sides of mountains, even if your car never leaves the pavement.
Audi Allroad: Fitting name for the luxury station wagon with AWD, ride height adjustable suspension and a Biturbo V6.
Ford Escape: Cue the Indiana Jones puns.
Of course, there are cars with adventurous names that seem just a tad bit far fetched.
Honda Odyssey: As a literary term, it means a long journey full of adventures
Nature | 14.42% of names
Ahh, the great outdoors. In this category, we included anything that occurs naturally in the world, even the animals.
Toyota Corolla: Another name for the petals of a flower.
Volkswagen Passat: German trade wind.
Hyundai Equus: Genus of animals that include the zebra, horses and donkeys.
Volkswagen Tiguan: Combine “tiger” and “iguana” and what do you get?
Cultural | 9.76% of names
This is where the names get truly interesting.
Toyota Yaris: Formed by combining the name of the greek god Charis, who symbolizes beauty and elegance, and the German word for affirmation, “Ya.”
Volkswagen Eos: Named after the Greek Titan Eos, goddess of the dawn.
Ford Taurus: Named after the second sign in the astrological zodiac, Taurus. It means “bull-like.”
Transportation | 6.98% of names
Some car names get right to the point: getting you from A to B.
Dodge Grand Caravan: A caravan is a vehicle designed to be lived in.
Volkswagen Phaeton: Means light, open horse drawn carriage.
Chrysler PT Cruiser: The PT means “personal transportation.”
Power | 6.02% of names
These manufacturers want you to know that these cars mean business, so they gave them names that represent authority, strength, and POWER!
Jeep Commander: Person in charge, especially in a military application.
Nissan Armada: Fleet of warships
Mitsubishi Galant: derived from the word “Gallant” which describes bravery and heroism.
Futuristic| 5.12% of names
Manufacturers took a leap into the unknown with these futuristic labels.
Toyota Prius: Named for the latin prefix “pre” meaning “to come before.”
Honda Prelude: The definition of Prelude is, “an action or event leading to something more important.” I wonder what Honda was referring to?
Mazda Millenia: Derived from the “Millennium” which means 1,000 years.
Versatility | 4.19% of names
There are more automotive categories than ever before, and many vehicles are blurring the lines. These names let people know their cars are ready for a multitude of tasks.
Nissan Versa: This one’s pretty obvious.
Honda Fit: Named because, although its a sub-compact, you’ll be surprised what you can “fit” in it. Ha!
Saturn VUE: Saturn had a new “VUE” (view) on the SUV.
Speed | 3.72% of names
Momentum, clip, pace, call it what you want, these names are dedicated to every gear head’s favorite thing, going fast.
Hyundai Veloster: Derived from the word velocity, which is the combination of speed and direction.
Chevrolet Sonic: The word Sonic refers to the speed of sound, but with a 138 horsepower, don’t expect to come close to the sound barrier.
Dodge Dart: Think aboout it. To dodge from something or to dart from something is the same thing. Pretty redundant.
Musical | 3.26% of names
There are quite a few names out there in the automotive world that denote music, particularly classic music.
Kia Forte: When reading music, a Forte instructs the person to play the note loud and strong.
Hyundai Sonata: A musical composition involving a soloist, perhaps accompanied by a piano. Moonlight Sonata, anyone?
Kia Cadenza: An instrumental or vocal solo in a larger piece of music, such as a Sonata.
Human | 2.77% of names
People love their cars so much that they often adorn them with human names. Sometimes manufacturers do this too, whether its to credit someone involved with its creation or just to give it a personal touch.
GMC Jimmy: Jimmy got its name from the sound “GM” makes when spoken, such as how Jeep sounds like “GP.” Either way, Jimmy sounds like the type of guy you’d like to have around.
MINI Cooper: Named after the famous car maker John Cooper.
Chevrolet Caprice: Caprice is an Italian name meaning fanciful or “over imaginative and unrealistic.”
Technology | 2.33% of names
Technology and Miley Cyrus have defined American culture. Luckily one is more evident in car names. Some of these cars truly deserve their technological designation, while we can’t help thinking that some of these names were picked simply for the way they sound.
Chevrolet Volt: Voltage is the unit of measurement for electromotive force, which is the perfect name for Chevrolet’s first electric car.
Saturn Ion: Maybe you recall this from Chemistry 101, an Ion is an atom that is electrically charged due to the loss or gain of an electron(s).
Written by Tristan Cathers
Picture Credits: Tourtoo, Hosmer Toyota, Truck Trend, BBC, CA Through My Lens, Motor Trend, SRV2, My American Odyssey, Deviant Art, Sports Car Digest